So, here we are. Vote taken; situation more-or-less unchanged. Time now, perhaps, for forces on both sides to regroup and plan their next move?
A fine display of solidarity coupled with getting the truth out to as many people as possible (without the aid of a corporate machine) and SayNoCPO have succeeded in safeguarding the future of the club.
Or halted the clubs ambition in its tracks.
Whichever way you want to see it, both arguments have their validity.
For me, yesterday was something of a tainted victory. I hate standing in the way of the clubs ambition. Loath it. It’s like smacking your own kids. I never much liked the saying “you have to be cruel to be kind”, I always thought it was the ultimate cop-out for the ultimately unimaginative.
But I honestly cannot stand by and stay silent as the club makes a decision now which could, in hindsight, prove to be short-sighted, naive and the catalyst for its own demise.
In amongst the anodyne statements coming out of the Bridge after the vote was over was the acknowledgment, at long last made verbal, that they recognise three important facts
– they recognise that fans are not opposed in principle to a move away from Stamford Bridge;
– they recognise the worries induced by a move away from the Bridge and outside the “Golden Circle” – the often-quoted three mile area;
– they recognise the worries of fans when they consider a post-Roman Abramovich era.
Bruce Buck and Ron Gourlay have responded to the situation on the Chelsea website (here) and understandably put a positive spin on the defeat. And while Mr Gourlay states that he is aware of the concerns of Chelsea fans, he has neither addressed them nor has he said anything to allay those fears.
His words: ‘Where I think Chelsea Pitch Owners had two concerns which prevented us from getting the 75 per cent was what happens after 2020, and what happens if something happens to Mr Abramovich.”
He has not addressed those issues, true, but possibly now is not the time. In the immediate aftermath of the vote the club not only needs to reconsider its position it also needs to reconsider its attitude to its fans. Because that I believe is where a major problem lies.
I don’t really want to go over old ground, but Chelsea fans have perhaps more than most, learned to fear the property developer.
Had certain individuals in the past not had the foresight to create Chelsea Pitch Owners, there may not have been a club for Roman Abramovich to take over.
It is quite conceivable that an identity-crushing ground share could have eventually strangled the life out of Chelsea – or worse still an amalgamation with another club may have been forced on us and Chelsea’s death would have been not-so-slow.
All “ifs and buts” I know, but the fact remains that property developers could have destroyed Chelsea. No one wants to risk returning to that position – and that is what Chelsea Football Club must understand and accept.
Whether it be in 2020 or a hundred years from then, no one who has the clubs best interests at heart will be prepared to go down that road again. If the club fail to understand that, they have failed to understand one of the prime factors motivating Chelsea fans today.
I understand that the Board believe they are acting in the best interests of the club – I hope they do, anyway. But I am not wholly convinced that they are up to the job. To a layman they appear to be doing the job business-wise, but if you look at the PR debacles they have overseen in the past few years including this current situation… well, you wonder don’t you? But I trust Roman Abramovich, so I’ll suspend my cynicism on that one.
But I fear that without the experiences of the Save the Bridge and the once-terrifying ogre of Marler Estates leading up to the formation of CPO, they are acting without a true appreciation of the clubs roots.
And that is why I am delighted that, despite their best efforts, Chelsea failed. I hope that this will have opened their eyes to the strength of the love we all have for the club and the desire of everyone to move forward together.
Bruce Buck himself confirmed “We all love Chelsea Football Club and we’ll move on and conquer together.’
So with the aim of moving on together, perhaps our club can now appreciate the meaning of the word “together” and actually talk to fans. All we seek are assurances.
But because of our past experiences those assurances must be as cast-iron as possible.
Perhaps when the dust has settled, they can explain, clearly and unambiguously the nature of the safeguards they have in place.
Perhaps they can assure us that the future of the club as an entity in south west London is safe; that the hands that guide its future are more than competent; that our children and our grandchildren will be able to get the same pleasure and thrill out of supporting the club that we do.
I’m not in a position to say where we go from here, but I know what I would like to see.
I would like to see the club being less blandly corporate with its fans. I would like to see the club being more honest and open about its future plans. I would like to hear cast-iron guarantees and invitations to fans to the processes of rebuilding or relocation.
I believe and care about Chelsea’s future. I want us all, in Mr Buck’s words, to move forward together. The CPO believes and cares about Chelsea’s future and similarly wants us to move forward together. We have shown that, openly and unequivocally.
It is now up to the Board to show the same.